There is hope that the acute facilities at South Tipperary General Hospital are ‘safe,’ following a visit from the new Minister for Health last Friday.
Dr James Reilly was in Clonmel to open medical teaching facilities and in the wake of his visit local Fine Gael deputy Tom Hayes declared that the hospital’s future is assured.
However other local public representatives while hopeful were also cautious of the news, and raised concerns about mental health services in the area.
“I am very pleased to confirm that South Tipperary General Hospital’s future is assured and that the existing services are secured for the future,” Deputy Hayes said, following the minister’s visit to the Clonmel hospital.
“Under the change of health policy under the Fine Gael-Labour government, the future of the hospital is now guaranteed and I think that this is a major step forward for the constituency and for the wider area who depend on South Tipperary General Hospital.”
Deputy Hayes said he had stressed to the minister how important the services are in this part of the country, and he is happy acute services are ‘safe’ for the term of this government, as part of government policy.
Deputy Seamus Healy, Chairperson of the Save our Acute Hospital Services Committee told The Nationalist that the committee was encouraged by the visit, and by the government’s ‘putting on hold’ of all reconfiguration and service transfer proposals that had caused so much concern in recent years. They will continue to be vigilant and will be carefully monitoring the position, he added.
“The committee, however, remains seriously concerned regarding the future of St. Michael’s Acute Psychiatric Inpatient Unit. It is not re-assured about the unit and is seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister of State Kathleen Lynch, Minister with responsibility for Mental Health Services.”
Deputy Hayes and newly elected Senator Denis Landy are also planning a meeting with Minister Lynch, to petition for the unit to remain open.
MEP Phil Prendergast also welcomed the news. “I would be very hopeful for the future of the hospital after the extensive and comprehensive visit of the minister,” she said. But, sounding a note of caution, the new MEP said that with the current financial environment there will always be room for worry about hospital services. Any change would have to be made only after a cost analysis and, she maintains, STGH services are efficient and there is access for all, meaning there is no reason to move services except in the case of creating centres of excellence.
Dr. James Reilly visited the hospital last Friday, to open the new University of Limerick Graduate Medicine centre in the Hospital. Over two hours he was also taken on a tour of the wards in the company of Mr Peter Murchan, consultant surgeon, and he was impressed by the quality and range of services being provided and by the commitment of staff.
The facility in Clonmel provides teaching space for medical students on placement at one of UL Medical School’s five affiliated teaching sites. Clinical teaching in the third and fourth years of the School’s programme sees medical students placed in a variety of hospital and community settings. There are eight UL students based at STGH at any given time and the expectation is that this number will increase as student numbers grow. In addition, UL will have up to 12 students undertaking their clinical training in General Practice in the South Tipperary area.
Welcoming the Minister to the hospital, Carole Broadbank, A/General Manager, said it added greatly to the profile of the hospital to have such valued input from the University of Limerick Medical School.
The new Graduate Entry Medical School facility at STGH enables students to participate in lectures, has dedicated study space and is equipped with video conferencing facilities to link Clonmel based students with colleagues at other sites, including St. Luke’s General Hospital for Carlow/Kilkenny.
“There have been many important dates in the history of health provision in South Tipperary and today ranks among them,” Mr Murchan said at the opening. “STGH has ongoing links, in terms of medical training and placements with WIT, UCC and UCD but we were particularly glad to see our partnership with UL prosper”.